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Insider View on Russia: Interview with Viktor

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Having various blogs has its advantages and one of the perks of discussing LGBTQ issues quite often is that people get in touch and share their stories with you. Through The Faggot Freakshow, i've managed to gain a relationship with a wonderful gay person named Виктор, or Viktor, who lives on the outskirts of Sochi, Russia. For obvious reasons, Viktor doesn't want to give his full name for this post, but was happy to talk to me and answer questions I had.

Viktor, like many LGBTQ people in Russia, is very proud of his sexuality, but is limited to how he can show it due to Russian governments propaganda laws. These laws were passed on June 29th, 2013 and are in place to ban the promotion of homosexuality to minors. These archaic laws make it illegal to publicly demonstrate in favour of gay rights, speak positively about LGBTQ rights and provide material related to LGBTQ culture. This includes promotion of ideals that same-sex relationships are equal to heterosexual relationships. Also, showcasing LGBTQ symbols such as rainbow flags and pink triangles have resulted in arrests, hate crimes in the form of verbal and physical attacks through planned meetings by anti-gay groups and vigilantes.

When talking to Viktor in the lead up to the Sochi Winter Olympics, I often asked him how he felt and his reply was always similar. He'd express that he feels fear, sadness and shame daily when on his commute to work. He mentions that getting public transport, which should be so simple, is almost an impossible task due to the variety of people contained in one place. Anti-gay slurs are often thrown around without thought, intimidating people innocently travelling to work and school. Viktor is often pushed and shoved, verbally abused and sometimes attacked just because he's gay and in the same place as these thugs.

I asked Viktor questions which I feel are rarely reported or mentioned in media. Don't get me wrong, campaigns and TV shows do touch on these things, but it's not always you get a first person perspective.

When you have to use public transport, what kind of experience is it like?
it can be horrible. i do not like to use it but it is my way to work or study. if we are lucky we get empty coaches and no busy roads. i like to be in my job quickly to not have to mix with many people. people who are disliking gay people are often on coaches or streets and they will pick out people they do not like or that they think are gay. i have been hit in the face and shouted at because of me being gay. the law against gay people is about teaching children gay people are better or good, i do not do that when on a coach, and im beaten for being me

That sounds terrible, I can only imagine the horrible situation LGBTQ people are going through atm. Is it hard for people to have a social life in Russia if you're gay? Gay bars etc?

there is gay clubs but i do not like seeing them. i do not like going out because it is too dangerous. gay bars have been attacked by anti-gay people and i do not want to be in them when it happens. the police are called by bar owners but it is not often that is helpful, police do not care for gay people and some do nothing when they come to these attacks

Have you attended any of the LGBTQ demonstrations?

i have but i cover enough of my face. i do not want people to think i am ashamed, but i do not want to take the risk. i do not know what my work management thinks about the treatment of gay people and i cant risk being given notice of my job because of the protests

I can completely understand that situation, it's definitely a risky position. What do you think of Putin saying he wants LGBTQ people to feel welcome at the Olympics?

i do not think it is true. he does not show compassion for the gay people of Russia who are hurt and attacked every day. i think it is for publicity from media and the olympic people. i think gay people need to be careful if they want to see Russia for the olympics

Here in the UK, as well as other countries, we're campaigning and demonstrating to raise awareness for the Russian LGBTQ people. There are boycotts of the games themselves and the sponsors, how do you feel about that?

i speak for many gay people when i say it is important to us that people are wanting our safety. i know you have protested McDonald's in your city and it is important for that to be done. Russian gay people know of international support and we care for it. i know gay people in Russia would say thank you

Since talking to Viktor, he mentioned that he's thinking of moving to Finland to be closer to his parents. He has avoided attending the games and other public events, especially since the gay arrests that have happened recently. I will keep this blog updated on Viktor and his plans. If he moves to Finland, he may be more open to answer more questions and be more public, but i'm not going to put pressure on him.